This Week in Petroleum History, February 18 to February 24

 

February 20, 1959 – First LNG Tanker arrives in England

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The world’s first liquefied natural gas tanker, the Methane Pioneer, was a converted World War II Liberty freighter.

After a 27-day voyage from Lake Charles, Louisiana, the Methane Pioneer – the world’s first liquefied natural gas tanker – arrived at the world’s first LNG terminal at Canvey Island, England. The vessel demonstrated that large quantities of LNG could be transported safely across the ocean.

The 340-foot Methane Pioneer, a converted World War II Liberty freighter, contained five 7,000-barrel aluminum tanks supported by balsa wood and insulated with plywood and urethane. Owned by Comstock Liquid Methane Corporation, the experimental ship refrigerated its cargo to minus 285 degrees Fahrenheit. The world’s first purpose-built commercial LNG carrier, the Methane Princess, began regular LNG delivery to the same Canvey Island port in June 1964.

February 20, 1993 – “Smokesax” Art has Pipeline Heart

A 63-foot-tall saxophone sculpture by Texas artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade debuted at the newly opened Billy Blues Bar & Grill in Houston. Wade transformed two 48-inch-wide steel petroleum pipeline segments into his “Smokesax, a free standing sculpture. Beer kegs, a Volkswagen, and assorted parts completed the blue-painted creation. The Houston City Council later deemed the oilfield pipeline saxophone to be art. Also see Oil in Art.

February 21, 1887 – Refining Process brings Riches to Rockefeller

Herman Frasch applied to patent his process for eliminating sulfur from “skunk-bearing oils.” Once an employee of Standard Oil of New Jersey, the chemist would soon be rehired by John D. Rockefeller, who owned oilfields near Lima, Ohio, that produced a thick, sulfurous oil. Rockefeller had accumulated a 40-million-barrel stockpile of the cheap, sour “Lima oil.” Standard Oil Company bought Frasch’s patent for a copper-oxide refining process to “sweeten” the oil. The desulfurized, odorless result greatly multiplied its value, making Rockefeller a fortune. Paid in Standard Oil shares and soon very wealthy, Frasch moved to Louisiana, where he patented a process for mining sulfur by injecting superheated water into wells. By 1911, he was known as the “Sulfur King.”

February 22, 1923 – First Carbon Black Factory in Texas 

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Early cars had white rubber tires until B.F. Goodrich discovered carbon black improved strength and durability. Above is a custom 1919 Pierce-Arrow. Photo courtesy Peter Valdes-Dapena.

Texas granted its first permit for a carbon black factory to J.W. Hassel & Associates in Stephens County. It had been discovered that carbon black increased the durability of rubber used in tires.

Modern carbon black, which looks like soot, is produced by controlled combustion of petroleum products, both oil and natural gas. It is used in rubber and plastic products, printing inks and coatings. Automobile tires were white until B.F. Goodrich Company in 1910 discovered that adding carbon black to the vulcanizing process improved strength and durability. An early Goodrich supplier was the Binney & Smith Company, maker of Carbon Black and Oilfield Crayons.

February 23, 1906 – Flaming Kansas Well makes Headlines

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Kansas oilfield workers struggled to extinguish this 1906 well at Caney. Photo courtesy Jeff Spencer.

A small town in southeastern Kansas found itself making headlines when a natural gas well erupted into flames after a lightning strike. The 150-foot burning tower could be seen at night for 35 miles.

Drilled by the New York Oil and Gas Company, the well became a tourist attraction. Newspapers as far away as Los Angeles regularly updated their readers as technologies of the day struggled to extinguish the highly pressurized well, “which defied the ingenuity of man to subdue its roaring flames.”

Postcards were printed of the Caney well, which took five weeks to smother using a specially designed and fabricated steel hood. Learn more about Caney’s famed oilfield in Kansas Gas Well Fire.

February 23, 1942 – Japanese Submarine shells California  Oil Refinery

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A rare Japanese postcard from World War II commemorates the shelling of the California refinery. Image courtesy John Geoghegan.

Less than three months after the start of World War II, a Japanese submarine attacked a refinery and oilfield near Los Angeles. The shelling caused little damage but created the largest mass sighting of UFOs ever in American history.

Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-17 fired armor-piercing shells at the Bankline Oil Company refinery in Ellwood City, California. The shelling north of Santa Barbara continued for 20 minutes before I-17 escaped into the night. It was the first Axis attack on the continental United States of the war. Learn more about 1942 panic of the “Battle of Los Angeles” in Japanese Sub attacks Oilfield.

February 24, 1938 – First Nylon Bristle Toothbrush goes on Sale

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August 1938 Life magazine advertisement.

The Weco Products Company of Chicago, Illinois, “Dr. West’s Miracle-Tuft” toothbrush went on sale – the first to use synthetic nylon developed three years earlier by a former Harvard professor working at a DuPont research laboratory in New Jersey.

“Until now, all good toothbrushes were made with animal bristles,” noted a 1938 Weco Products advertisement in Life magazine. “Today, Dr. West’s new Miracle-Tuft is a single exception. It is made with EXTON, a unique bristle-like filament developed by the great DuPont laboratories, and produced exclusively for Dr. West’s.”

Americans would soon be brushing their teeth with nylon bristle toothbrushes, declared the New York Times. These “Exton” toothbrushes were the first commercial use of the petroleum product nylon, a synthetic polymer. Pricing its toothbrushes at 50 cents each (more than $8.25 today), Weco Products guaranteed “no bristle shedding.”

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Recommended Reading: The Natural Gas Revolution: At the Pivot of the World’s Energy Future (2013); Herman Frasch -The Sulphur King (2013); The B.F. Goodrich Story Of Creative Enterprise 1870-1952 (2010); Caney, Kansas: The Big Gas City (1985); The Battle of Los Angeles, 1942: The Mystery Air Raid (2010); Enough for One Lifetime: Wallace Carothers, Inventor of Nylon (1996).

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Listen online to Remember When Wednesdays on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells and Volunteer Contributing Editor Kris Wells call in on the last Wednesday of each month. Support our energy education mission with a contribution today. Contact [email protected] for membership information. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

The post This Week in Petroleum History, February 18 to February 24 appeared first on American Oil & Gas Historical Society.

Source: American Oil & Gas Historical Society

This Week in Petroleum History, February 11 to February 17

 

February 12, 1954 – First Nevada Oil Well

After decades of dry holes (the first drilled near Reno in 1907), Nevada became a petroleum-producing state. Shell Oil Company’s second test of its Eagle Springs No. 1 well in Railroad Valley, Nye County, produced commercial amounts of oil. The routine test revealed the Railroad Valley field – Nevada’s first major oilfield, which produced oil from an interval between 6,450 and 6,730 feet deep.

Although the Eagle Springs field would produce 3.8 million barrels of oil, finding other Nevada oilfields proved difficult. The state’s second discovery resulting in commercial production came more than two decades later in 1976 when Northwest Exploration Company completed the Trap Spring No. 1 well five miles west of the Eagle Springs field. Learn more in First Nevada Oil Well.

February 12, 1987 – Texaco Fine upheld

A Texas court upheld a 1985 decision against Texaco for having initiated an illegal takeover of Getty Oil after Pennzoil had made a legally binding bid for the company. By the end of the year, the companies settled their historic $10.3 billion legal battle for $3 billion after Pennzoil agreed to drop its demand for interest. According to the Los Angeles Times, the pact was vital for a reorganization plan that dictated how Texaco emerged from bankruptcy proceedings, a haven it had sought to stop Pennzoil from enforcing the largest court judgement ever awarded.

February 13, 1924 – Forest Oil adopts Yellow Dog

petroleum history februaryAn independent oil exploration company originally founded in 1916 consolidated with four other independent oil companies to form the Forest Oil Corporation – an early developer of secondary recovery technologies. For its logo, the new company included a two-wicked “Yellow Dog” oilfield lantern used on derricks. Many believed the lantern’s name came from the two burning wicks resembling a dog’s glowing eyes at night. Originally based in Bradford, Pennsylvania – home to the nation’s “first billion dollar oilfield” – Forest Oil developed innovative water-injection methods to keep the Bradford oilfield productive.

February 15, 1982 – Atlantic Storm sinks Ocean Ranger

With rogue waves reaching as high as 65 feet during an Atlantic cyclone, the offshore drilling platform Ocean Ranger sank on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, Canada, killing all 84 on board. About 65 miles east, a Soviet container ship was struck by the same weather system and sank with the loss of 32 crew members. Described at the time as the world’s largest semi-submersible platform, the Ocean Ranger in November 1981 had begun drilling a third well in the Hibernia oilfield for Mobil Oil of Canada.

February 16, 1935 – Oil States form Compact Commission

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Renamed the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission in 1991, IOGCC has been based in Oklahoma City since the 1930s.

The Interstate Oil Compact Commission began in Dallas with the writing of the “Interstate Compact to Preserve Oil and Gas.” The new organization would be headquartered in Oklahoma City following approval by the U.S. Congress in August.

Representatives from Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas agreed to begin implementing a series of provisions to “conserve oil and gas by the prevention of physical waste thereof from any cause.” Oklahoma Gov. Ernest W. Marland  – who founded Marland Oil Company in 1921 – was elected the first chairman.

“In 1935, six states took advantage of a constitutional right to ‘compact,’ or agree to work together, to resolve common issues,” notes IOGCC, which added the word gas to its name in 1991. “Faced with unregulated petroleum overproduction and the resulting waste, the states endorsed and Congress ratified a compact to take control of the issues.”

February 17, 1902 – Lufkin Industries founded in East Texas

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The Lufkin foundry produced the first counterbalanced oil pumps. Photo by Bruce Wells.

The Lufkin Foundry and Machine Company was founded in Lufkin, Texas, as a repair shop for railroad and sawmill machinery. When the pine region’s timber supplies began to dwindle, the company discovered new opportunities in the burgeoning oilfields following the historic discovery at Spindletop Hill.

Inventor Walter C. Trout was working for this East Texas company in 1925 when he came up with a new idea for pumping oil. His design would become an oilfield icon known by many names – nodding donkey, grasshopper, horse-head, thirsty bird, and pump jack, among others. By the end of 1925, a prototype of Trout’s pumping unit was installed on a Humble Oil and Refining Company well near Hull, Texas. “The well was perfectly balanced, but even with this result, it was such a funny looking, odd thing that it was subject to ridicule and criticism,” Trout explained.

Thanks to Walter Trout’s invention – the now familiar counterbalanced pumping unit – Lufkin Industries would sell more than 200,000 pump jacks of all sizes. General Electric acquired Lufkin for $3.3 billion in 2013. GE closed and dismantled the foundry in 2015. Learn about early oilfield production in All Pumped Up – Oilfield Technology.

February 17, 1944 – First Alabama Oil Well

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Alabama’s major producing regions are in the west. Map courtesy Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Alabama’s first oilfield was discovered in Choctaw County when Texas oilman H.L. Hunt drilled the No. 1 Jackson well. Hunt’s 1944 wildcat well revealed the Gilbertown oilfield. Prior to this discovery, 350 dry holes had been drilled in the state.

Geologist and historian Ray Sorensen has found a detailed 1858 report of natural oil seeps six miles from Oakville in Lawrence County. Sorenson, who has compiled a history of all reports about petroleum prior to the Drake well of 1859, cites Michael Tuomey, who wrote about the geology of Alabama a year earlier. Learn more in First Alabama Oil Well.

Hunt drilled in Choctaw County and discovered the Gilbertown oilfield in the Eutaw Sand at a depth of 3,700 feet. The field produced 15 million barrels of oil. But the search for another oilfield led to another 11 years of dry holes.

Today, thanks to new technologies, geologists see opportunities in the deep Black Warrior Basin of Pickens and Tuscaloosa counties and in the shales of St. Clair and neighboring counties.

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Recommended Reading: Roadside Geology of Nevada (2017); The Taking of Getty Oil: Pennzoil, Texaco, and the Takeover Battle That Made History (2017); Images of America: Around Bradford (1997); Lufkin, from sawdust to oil: A history of Lufkin Industries, Inc. (1982); Lost Worlds in Alabama Rocks: A Guide (2000).

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Listen online to Remember When Wednesdays on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells and Volunteer Contributing Editor Kris Wells call in on the last Wednesday of each month. Support our energy education mission with a contribution today. Contact [email protected] for membership information. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

The post This Week in Petroleum History, February 11 to February 17 appeared first on American Oil & Gas Historical Society.

Source: American Oil & Gas Historical Society